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Minimum Viable Lemonade

User Experience is Not a Feature

Is anyone else out there sick of signing up for on-line products that don't do what they promised?

Or more commonly, products that don't actually do anything?

Seems like every day I'm running into another landing page which requires access to all my social networks, yet provides no actual value.

Minimum Viable Product

I am a huge fan of creating Minimum Viable Products (MVPs) in order to test business ideas. I advocate it on a daily basis because too many people build too many products that no one is really interested in using. A minimum viable product is a great way to test customer interest in your solution and figure out the minimum feature set that you can build a business around.

However, even if you're running a basic smoke test just to see if anyone will sign up for your business idea, "It's only an MVP" is a poor excuse for bad user experience.

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Censorship - see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil

Stop SOPA / PIPA

I'm generally not the type to go stage a sit in, but I'll be attending tomorrow's protests against SOPA / PIPA. And this site will go dark tomorrow in solidarity with Wikipedia, Reddit, and others.

For those of you who may not know, the US Congress is once again demonstrating it's complete lack of internet understanding by drafting a law that potentially opens up some lovely security holes and nice legal DoS possibilities. Perhaps they are trying to stop the kittens from clogging up the intertubes.

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Lean Startup vs. Visionary Entrepreneur

At the risk of rehashing an argument, there is an ongoing misconception that creating a company under a lean startup approach is incompatible with a big entrepreneurial vision. Paul Higgins recently published an article in Entrepreneur Country Magazine based on his blog post again suggesting that the lean and big vision were incompatible.

Some of the reasons were worth thought and response:

Customers Don't Know What They Want

Henry Ford allegedly once said, "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses."

So if customers can't be trusted to know what they want, what hope is there for building a company on 'lean principles' through experimentation and constant customer feedback?

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The Blind Pivot

Taxonomy of the Lean Startup Anti-Pivot

Pivoting has been up and down the Gartner Hype Cycle at least twice now. Sometimes it's an accurate term to describe what entrepreneurs have to do to survive: adapt to customer feedback.

However, sometimes it's an annoying buzzword that is poorly understood and grating to the ears. I'm on a constant search for good patterns for entrepreneurs to follow and bad anti-patterns to avoid. So as a follow up to my Taxonomy of the Lean Startup Pivot, here is the Taxonomy of the Lean Startup Anti-Pivot. Complete with a piñata!

(Special thanks to Mike Woloszynowicz - @mkbiz for coming up with the term "Blind Pivot" and inspiring this post.)

Blind Pivot - Changing business models without getting out of the building and talking to the humans.

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No Customer Persona

Design does not equal Pretty Pixels

Since I started writing more about design and user experience, I've been getting emails from entrepreneurs asking for design feedback. These emails usually have some screenshots attached and some sort of description as to what value the website or app is supposed to provide.

Unfortunately, no one seems to include a description of the customer.

You Can't Design in a Vacuum

Leaving aside the ridiculousness of anyone asking me for my aesthetic opinion (my photoshop skills are weak at best), how can you give feedback on a design if you don't know who it's being designed for?

Design != Pretty Pixels

Is it pretty? Sure.

Does it look Web 2.0ish? Sure.

Is that what your customer wants? I have no idea.

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A Minimum Viable Team is more important than a Minimum Viable Product

Dharmesh Shah often puts out some great articles so I was pleased to read one on Choosing a Minimum Viable Co-founder. Having spent a lot of time on that subject while running a site dedicated to helping people find co-founders, I enjoyed this sentiment:

They're committed to the company, not just the current idea. Anecdotal data suggests that as fantastic as you may think your idea is, your idea will likely change.... If your co-founder is married to a specific manifestation of an idea, trouble will brew when the company is no longer pursuing that exact idea in that exact way. You need a co-founder that's committed to the cause — and committed to you.

I only wish the emphasis was more on the people and not "the company" or "the idea."

I have always found the pervasive quest to find a rockstar business guy or a ninja developer to be ridiculous, but the pursuit of someone who is "committed to the idea" is far more insidious because it's less obviously flawed. Why wouldn't you want a co-founder who's in love with your idea?

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Pivoting on Investor Feedback a.k.a Beware of Mentors

Don't outsource your decision making.

Let me explain.

Investors, mentors, advisors, and other experts are great to talk to. They'll offer valuable insight on market sizes, suggest great customer acquisition strategies, and sometimes offer you wads of cash to continue with your business.

But when I hear someone say,

Based on feedback from our investors we've pivoted our idea.

...I can't help but cringe. (Update: This behavior has now been dubbed The Assisted Blind Pivot)

I've said it again and again...the only expert on your business is you.

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